The Coptic farmer Abdel-Massih Ayyad Fanous, 47, from the Minya village of Nazlet Ebeid was to shot to death early morning today while on his way to his field.
Fanous had nothing to do with the Muslim/Coptic riots that had erupted a day earlier between the Copts of the Coptic-majority Nazlet Ebied and the Muslims of the Muslim majority neighbouring village of Hawarta. The dispute had been over a piece of land, and left one Copt and two Muslims dead.
Eyewitnesses say a number of Muslims spotted Fanous as he headed to his field at 7am and opened fire on him using automatic firearms. He directly fell dead, his body riddled with bullets. The police, which then held the village under tight security, did not budge.
The Coptic villagers insist that Fanous was shot not for any crime he had committed, but just to even the score of the deaths of the previous day. Local tradition holds that a Copt may never be allowed to kill or get away with killing a Muslim, but not the other way round.
Ezzat Ibrahim, a local rights activist, complained that the police have been collecting arms and weapons from the Copts in Minya villages but not from the Muslims in the same villages, a move he decries as reeking of sectarian discrimination since it leaves the Copts defenceless before the armed Muslims should any dispute arise. The police has a notorious reputation of arriving on the scene of sectarian violence only after the damage is done.
Coptic youth activists have severely criticised the manner in which the police in Minya handled the recent attacks against the Copts in the villages of Nazlet Ebeid and Badraman, accusing the police of outright complicity with the Muslim attackers. In Badraman especially, where Muslim/Coptic tensions that had risen owing to a rumour of an illicit affair between a Muslim woman and Coptic man had been contained by the village elders, the local Muslim Brothers incited the Muslim villagers to attack the Copts. The result was a vicious rampage against the Coptic villagers; four were seriously injured including the 12-year-old Yvonne Bushra Ikladius who was thrown to the street out of her second-floor home; six Coptic-owned homes and a number of shops were looted and set on fire.
The police detained 11 individuals, two Copts from Badraman and nine individuals from Nazlet Ebeid and Hawarta, and is carrying out an investigation.
30 November 2013
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